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REPETITION KILLS YOU is an experimental noir. A novel-in-stories. A literary jigsaw puzzle.

The book comprises 26 short stories, presented in alphabetical order, from ‘Actress on a Mattress’ to ‘Zero Sum’. Combined in different ways, they tell a larger, more complex story. The narrative timeline is warped, like a blood-soaked Möbius Strip. It goes round in circles—like a deranged animal chasing its own tail.

The content is brutal and provocative: small-town pornography, gun-running, mutilation and violent, blood-streaked stories of revenge. The cast list includes sex offenders, serial killers, bare-knuckle fighters, carnies and corrupt cops. And a private eye with a dark past—and very little future.

Welcome to Paignton Noir.

Tom Leins took time out of his day to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss his latest release, REPETITION KILLS YOU:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope that readers appreciate the fusion of high-brow concept and low-life literature! I describe REPETITION KILLS YOU as ‘a literary jigsaw puzzle’, and when the final piece slots into place, I hope that people are willing to re-read the book and untangle any remaining narrative mysteries.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

I would like to think that REPETITION KILLS YOU stretches the boundaries of what a short story collection can achieve. I have always enjoyed collections which feature recurring protagonists and locations, or overlapping scenarios. I wanted to take this idea and run with it—exploiting the concept until it reached its logical conclusion. I hope I succeeded.

Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed backing myself into narrative corners. Part of the challenge of writing a book in an experimental manner involves trying to subvert reader expectation, and using the warped timeline—more of a Möbius Strip—to my advantage. The stories are all standalone pieces, but taken together they form a larger, more complex narrative.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

I genuinely didn’t know how it was going to end until I wrote the final scene!

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

The highly unlikely influence on this hardboiled collection is J. G. Ballard, whose experimental 1966 story The Beach Murders inspired the alphabetical approach I used when assembling this book. While the bulk of my reading activity focuses on American crime writers, I have a real affection for idiosyncratic British writers like Ballard, Iain Sinclair and Derek Raymond—whose books really struck a chord with me when I first read them. Their respective influences on my work may be difficult to detect, but I assure you they are there!


Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk. He is also the author of a pair of novelettes—Skull Meat and Snuff Racket.

To learn more about Tom and his work, please visit his website.